François Kevorkian may have been born in France, but he’s inextricably linked with the sounds of New York disco and house. Coming up with the likes of Larry Levan and David Mancuso at such dance music institutions as the Paradise Garage and Studio 54, his nearly forty years in the city that never sleeps saw his star rise quickly as a producer and remixer, working with artists as diverse as Loleatta Holloway, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, while also becoming a revered DJ at his Body & Soul party, held together with veteran selectors Joaquin “Joe” Claussell and Danny Krivit. Having celebrated his sixtieth birthday this year, Kevorkian could easily rest on his laurels. Instead he has taken his now eleven-year-old dub-inflected clubnight Deep Space at Cielo in Manhattan to new heights. Here, for the uninitiated, François K takes you to Deep Space in his own words.
This is the extended version of the text that appeared in the Summer issue of Electronic Beats Magazine. To read a Covering Tracks: Deep Space Special, go here.
Throughout my career, especially when I started going in the studio somewhere around 1978, I found myself very attracted to a lot of production techniques that clearly came from people using a lot of effects processing and delays and things. Whether it was more like traditional dub records from Jamaica or experimental records that came from krautrock in Germany, or whether it was some of the avant-garde free jazz that incorporated elements of tape music, like the Teo Macero productions of Miles Davis. All of these things, they had a confluence: astute producers were making heavy use of electronic music production techniques to enhance the live playing, whether it would be jazz, reggae, rock or whatever else. It was immediately clear in my work in the studio, and I became quickly known for being one of the people within the “dance music’”or “disco” world who could deliver the trippy elements and exaggerated processing.
Others were great at extended versions of songs or transforming them into something that had more muscle for the dancefloor. For me, it was that dub element—be it more electronic, like my work with Yazoo, Kraftwerk or Jean-Michel Jarre, or on a more traditional reggae tip, like with Black Uhuru, Jimmy Cliff, or Bunny Wailer. I could work within a pop context, too, like when I did dub versions for Mick Jagger, Diana Ross and Foreigner. But for the people who were hiring me to do these remixes, this idea of the dub was always the thing on the side, rather than the main A-side version they were normally after. Obviously I was getting hired to do a specific thing for people, even though in some instances I just turned out a dub version and said, “There’s no vocal, that’s my mix.” I did that for several big acts who accepted it and put it out, like The Fatback Band and Midnight Oil—I ended up producing them after that.
Then, in the early 2000s, I was approached by the owner of Cielo, Nicolas Matar, and he offered me a night. We were close friends, and being a DJ himself, he dug what I was doing. It was pretty much with the understanding that it was going to be something related to house music. I think they were really surprised when I came back and said, “First of all, I don’t want to do a big night, like the weekends. I want to do something as obscure and out of the way as possible. Monday sounds great.” Because when you do that, you’re guaranteed that the big weekend crowd and fist-pumping advocates are going to be at home getting ready for their job the next day during the week.
In the context of what the club looks like and how incredible everything is there—the soundsystem, the intimate setting that allows for a lot of seating around the dancefloor area for people not to feel awkward if they don’t dance—I figured I wanted to focus on trying to do something that was going to be totally unique and in some respect related to dub. Even though dub had been a very integral part of my career and what I was doing since the beginning, it was never an acknowledged thing. It was just like a bonus. But I felt it was the time for things to change. Instead of just starting another night where I would just be playing authentic Jamaican reggae from 1975 by Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Tubby, and Niney the Observer, it was more going to be about trying to showcase and connect the dots for people to incorporate that dub aesthetic into all sorts of different backgrounds. Or in conjunction with that, to take songs that would otherwise be very ordinary and to actually do whatever processing and treatment to them, sort of an abbreviated version of what I’m doing in the studio, but live and in front of people. Which is why it says, “François K live on the mixing board.” It’s not that I’m playing multi-tracks and doing remixes, but with technology today there are a great deal of things that are available in order to do things that are pretty close to that. And after having done a few thousand remixes and spent a few decades of my life in the studio, I have a basic understanding of what it takes to do it. There’s a real separation between the idea of DJing—i.e. playing records—and being in the studio where you’re fully making sounds from scratch. What I’m striving to do is show that those boundaries don’t exist; that you really should be able to do a little bit of all that while you’re in front of people.
Deep Space represented an opportunity to bring this to the forefront. We courted dub poets, DJs, or other artists who we felt were compatible with that aesthetic and somehow they’d accept and do, say, “special” sets around this point of view. In that sense, another turning point, even though we were already established, was somewhere around 2006 when we started hearing all of these rumblings from London and all these strange new types of music that no one had ever heard before, like Digital Mystikz and dubstep. It made sense to me right away, but the crowd took a little time to catch on. When I started championing that music it sent a lot of people into a tailspin—they thought that Deep Space had sold out because now we were playing this so-called crap dubstep. They weren’t used to it, they just wanted the smoothness of what they already knew. Until we actually proved that there were a great deal of people who wanted to hear this music I needed to get people’s ears used to that new sound. We became, in New York, a very significant supporter of many artists visiting from the UK or other parts that were very much into that dubstep sound. Because no one else wanted to book them, it was pretty easy for us to get almost anyone we wanted. People were just delighted that there was anyone in New York interested in giving them a chance to play. Most clubs just want to have house and techno. Ultimately, I’m trying to approach sets at Deep Space with a totally open mind. It’s really a matter of consciously aiming to create a certain amount of contrast because I think it’s really necessary in music, especially as everyone else is striving for uniformity and sameness. I think that my mission, my role, is exposing that, even if it means taking risks.
The evolution of what’s been happening at Deep Space has actually caused me to reconsider a lot of what I was doing previously as a DJ, music creator, and generally. It has made me realize how much I value improvisation, the instant of creation, that moment where you’re standing in front of a crowd and there’s thirty seconds left to play on the record. You haven’t yet decided what you’re going to play next, and you have to look through all of your records and find something and put it on, mix it in, and make it all sound effortless and entertaining. It’s an unbelievable amount of pressure. When that happens somehow you shed all the unnecessary baggage and what comes out is the one thing that you know you should be playing because, really, if you’re a DJ, you know what that is. Sometimes things that came from that voice were very crazy, completely strange, and totally odd. But if somehow I was going to be truthful about trying to be an artist, I needed to defer to that voice and not stay focused on logic. Showing that inner part of the creative process is what it is to be a DJ, for me. It’s still a work in progress. When you do stuff like this, you go in front of an audience and you don’t know what you’re going to do but that’s what’s honest about it. When I step in front of the crowd there, I am actually striving to give them my soul—not some pre-programmed, pre-packaged, pre-digested slice of predictable fodder that might make them feel good at that very moment, but they’ll have forgetten about ten minutes later. I’m going to give them something that might shock them, that might profoundly offend them, or make them feel uncomfortable, or totally thrilled, blissful, and in heaven. Deep Space definitely has been the vehicle that has allowed me to do this. ~
Germany’s legendary, Leipzig-based underground label Jahtari is about to release Aussie reggae master Monkey Marc‘s Monkey Marc vs. The Planet Smashers EP. Monkey Marc, who comes with the byline “Melbourne’s number one sampling warrior” has recently produced songs for Roots Manuva and UK rapper Jimmy Screech. Despite the fact he’s just dropping his new EP now, Monkey Marc (never gets old) is already putting the finishing touches on his debut full-length, set for release in April this year. Besides dropping future-reggae under his solo monika, he’s also member of Australian electronic outfits Labrats and Combat Wombat. Plug into Monkey Marc’s deep frequencies below and go, um, bananas.
UPDATE, February 27: Streaming is over, buy the release instead.
Forward-thinking and passionate Budapest-based musician, producer and record label owner András Hargitai aka Banyek embarks on his creative endeavours to satisfy his hunger for learning, teaching and sharing music and knowledge. Recently, he curated the latest developments of the local dub techno circles in a remarkable selection of tracks released through his very own label Bitlab Records. Besides digging the sounds of dub techno and dubstep Banyek is also a massive fan of analog home-built devices. He arranges synth meets—to share his dedication with fellow producers—alongside organizing a workshop and recording session with a one vital additopm: a rare and legendary ’70s Moog modular synthesizer . We talked to him about his love of building machines and communities.
You have several DIY projects ranging from releasing experimental dub techno on your label to promoting analog sounds and devices. What exactly was your project making use of the vintage Moog modular synth about?
In 2006, I went to the Palace of Arts in Budapest. It was the first time I had heard every major electronic instrument on a high end sound system. From the theremin, through the Ondes Martenot, to the Moog modular, everything was played onstage on that evening. The sounds were so distinguished, so different, and somehow deeper. It was as if I had been blind earlier due to the endless variety and charm that virtual instruments provided. These sounds literally opened my ears. I’ve wanted to use an analogue synth ever since.
While I was already in the process of planning my future setup, I noticed that the studio in the estate of the Hungarian Radio Corporation ceased to exist due to management orders, so they put that Moog modular system, which I heard in 2006, into a museum they created. I consider locking such a unique instrument—still in working condition away—in a museum an irrational decision. That’s why I thought to get into contact with the person who used it for years at the Radio, turn it on again, and record some sounds of it with his guidance. I wanted to let people know that it exists, and that it has such a powerful sound (many times more powerful than any “little” Moog nowadays). Anything is better than leaving it inaccessible to people.
You’re also working on Kickstarter project, can you explain a little more?
It’s one of the first Kickstarter projects in Hungary where the aim is to create a quality audiovisual night by crowdfunding, giving perks to our donors whether we reach our goal or not. The project tries to answer some questions about the basic problems which occur in the underground music scene of the 21st century. These days, people seem to be dragged towards two systems. Firstly, they retreat to what they call the underground and prove themselves by remaining small (budget-wise). What emerges is a handful of music events in small venues with a lack of sound quality, and also interest. It’s good for one thing, but it’s merely a retreat for me and not much else. Secondly, they take the completely opposite route. The brand-product-promotion-sponsors rectangle. These are artists who consider themselves as creators of brands (let it be an underground or a mainstream or hybrid) by means of widely available media, gaining enough profit with sufficient promotion by sponsors and targeting, thus creating various (music) products. This is considered to be the professional way nowadays. I’m not here to say that both are wrong, I just believe there is a possibility to do it better, to arrive at healthier results by taking the fittest elements from the two systems.
And the fundraising element?
About 10 years ago if someone came up with an idea of an electronic music night they would be able to organise an event which was turned into a good and inspiring memory, and also, very importantly, they were able to pay basic costs. This situation has changed: electronic music became surrounded by marvellous acts and events, once underground projects now turn up in huge concert halls for example. Tthis meant that a number of the people in Hungary and other places no longer had much interest standing in front of the same old pair of speakers and turntables. At the same time, those small events that once had been so flourishing later became multiplied, cancelling each other out. Another sad thing was that the remaining fragmented groups became lonely, isolated, DJs playing music in front of other DJs.
We started thinking: what would motivate people? I had already seen lots of successful Kickstarter projects including one about a film documenting the resurgence of modular synthesizers. I kept on thinking about how to apply to this premise in a music event context, and once I arrived at the idea, I set it up. The main idea is that we give perks back to people instead of simply begging for money in the doorway.
You prefer the sound of analog, especially in a live environment. What does “live” mean to you? How do you build up your live show?
One can dwell into a permanent state of dissatisfaction of what “live” is and what it isn’t. Since everything is sampled digitally nowadays it doesn’t amuse me any more. Therefore I bring all my instruments on stage with nothing pre-recorded. I have two “saved” skeletons though. 1) The midi sequences that trigger the parts of my drum synth. 2) Some performance sets in my synth. The rest is an improvised version of something I practiced for a long while—or not. I’m shaping the sounds with the knobs and control voltages on my synths and my drum synth, and also sending and returning the modular effects—and changing their parameters—fading the channels on the mixer in real time: dubbing them as they say. I also set up new sequences on my analog sequencer that controls my synth with voltages. I have a MIDI device which turns the digital clock into analog clock: this is how the two sequencers are synced. That is “live”, to me, in 2012. Playing live for me is changing and shaping the sound, and most importantly: staying together with the people you play music to or with.
What do you think about the Hungarian underground music scene? Do you have any advice in order for it to build a connection with the international vein of underground music?
First and foremost, we need to build an infrastructure. Wrecked, down-at-heel pubs don’t serve as an infrastructure because their point is not sharing music in a good quality. But I grow tired of complaining about them. The problem only arises when someone intends to rely on these systems where music clearly doesn’t belong. Also, I don’t really see why people would expect others to go to a room with bad acoustics and listen to music on bad quality speakers. A financial crisis is here to stay, and people in the region at least have time to reconsider a lot of things. I think some people here are still too eager to reproduce a kind of “international” electronic music culture in Central and Eastern Europe along the lines of Berlin and London. The problem is very simple though: we cannot ask for that amount of money from the small amount of people who would be that interested. I am talking about club culture here; it is way too expensive for us, it doesn’t match our salaries at all. Whereas, if one puts a lot of effort into building a sound system, they can bail themselves out.
A self-sustaining culture?
Instead of spending too much on just one night inviting the ‘next best thing’ to play in your city and then acting like a martyr because more money is gone, I would advise people to put that money somewhere more valuable; invest into something that is sustainable. That’s what I like about truly patient and dedicated musicians who keep on developing their setup along with its way of use! Of course, it’s a more arduous way to create something valuable and interesting with that infrastructure too. But what if that culture became more interesting than anything imported ‘from the West’?
Also, apart from my huge dissatisfaction with the music education of my generation, I also miss electronic music from Hungarian education syllabuses too. It’s still a taboo but it would be a great start for future generations of electronic music culture or any music culture at all. It explains why it’s very scarce to find someone who understands electronic music and doesn’t produce it at the same time. We need to make a healthy change, getting rid of cultural ideologies and our own misconceptions in the coming years. We have a lot of work to do. ~
It was in 1993 that I first witnessed Adrian Sherwood using the mixing desk as an instrument. He was in the room next to us at London’s Roundhouse Studios where we were working on tracks for Atari Teenage Riot. I remember so clearly how he was artfully layering sounds and using old delays and phasers to create this wide-open space—dubbed-out sonic landscapes is one of his specialities, of course. If you listen to seventies dub like Lee Perry’s “The Good, the Bad and the Upsetters” it all sounds very compressed, compared with Sherwood productions, where you can clearly hear each element. It’s sound as vision. Listening to him work that day, it became obvious that Sherwood came from a generation for whom experimentation was crucial. You see, in the pre-sampling eighties, everyone seemed to be thinking about how to create not only weirder, unexpected sounds, but also one’s that aren’t so easy to replicate—individualized sound design. For example, there’s a credit on the new album that lists legendary jazzman, Skip McDonald, as a “tuning consultant”. The explanation is that while working on Survival & Resistance, Sherwood and his collaborators went to Brazil and recorded traditional instruments, with Skip tuning them so low that they sound like synths. Tuning was always one of the first parameters that musicians could really play with: take a guitar, tune it down and the frequencies become more rhythmic and drum-like. That’s Sherwood’s organic approach to synthesis.
After I got about halfway through Survival & Resistance, I began to wonder why it is I love Adrian Sherwood, but find dubstep and new generations of dub-influenced subgenres so characterless. I guess one of the reasons is that so many dubstep producers use the same software, which naturally limits their imagination and sonic capacity. I don’t just mean the sounds themselves, but also their conceptual wherewithal that supports the pure music. In contrast, the expansive, scorched landscape of Survival & Resistance courses with a real sense of dread, particularly on “U.R. Sound”, where ominous chords are buttressed by currents of electrical interference. This is balanced out by a kind of spirituality that is specific to Sherwood dub—exemplified by the meditative vocals of Rastafarian preacher Ghetto Priest on “Trapped Here”. That’s not to say that there aren’t dubstep elements on the album, like “Two Semitones and a Raver” with its wobbly bass line and quick drops, but as usual Sherwood’s music is much broader than genre-specific categorization, which of course is the result of all the people he’s working with: Lee Perry, Skip McDonald, Doug Wimbish . . . You just can’t recreate that in the studio with one artist and some software.
Like Atari Teenage Riot, Sherwood is a political artist and through his On-U Sound label he has championed and produced music with a black Jamaican heritage; a political agenda for a postcolonial Britain. There’s no doubt it influenced ATR’s Bass Terror Soundsystem, although people might argue that what we did was harder and noisier. On-U is all about creating a sense of unity, but one loaded with social criticism; bringing people together without compromising the political message. If we as listeners are happy to merely stand back, the music says nothing and we will find ourselves left behind. Sherwood has a direct and critical political message, and this is something the dubstep scene urgently needs. Releasing Survival & Resistance amidst the global financial crisis and in the wake of a first wave of Occupy, Sherwood reminds us what soundsystems were, and what they should still be about. I hope young people listen, because music as a medium of political critique is perhaps more relevant now than ever. ~
Alec Empire is a founding member of the Berlin-based digital hardcore band Atari Teenage Riot. He currently runs two labels, Digital Hardcore Recordings (established in 1994) and the more recent Eat Your Heart Out. Aside from being a prolific solo artist, he is also an avid remixer and DJ. Empire was featured in the Spring 2011 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine in conversation with Wired staff writer and hacker-ethicist Steven Levy.
This text appeared first in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 31 (Fall 2012). Read the full issue on issuu.com:
From Kraftwerk’s travel obsession and the endless poetics of Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 to Atom™’s overt Schubert references on Winterreise, German Romanticism has been an enduring presence in electronic music. So too for Berlin clicks and cuts/dubtechnoist Stefan Betke and minimal techno godfather Wolfgang Voigt. Over the past fifteen years, both artists have forged a connection to the sublime in nature and the seduction of the German forests—associations made explicit in lyrical German album titles and cover art. Here, Voigt and Betke discuss the reciprocal reflection of the digital and natural and the pitfalls of merging artistic and national identity.
Wolfgang Voigt: People often ask me about my relationship towards nature and forests, and because I’m tired of answering these questions, I thought I’d take the chance to ask you about it Stefan: You’ve released two albums with explicit nature references in the titles—Waldgeschichten [“Stories from the Forest”] or Steingarten [“Stone garden”]. What’s your connection to nature?
Stefan Betke: [laughing] Well, Steingarten is an interesting example. The photography on the cover is of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, located in one of the most beautiful regions of the German Alps. Honestly, I would say my love of nature is straightforward: nature is where I can breathe and relax best, and the further I get from the city, the more my thoughts decelerate . . . even though I still love big cities too. It’s the same today as when I was a child. I love the mountains; I love hiking; I love the forests; and I love resting on a tree trunk and observing my surroundings, and I have no problem spending hours in the car or in a train to reach my destination. But to be honest, that’s not the only reason why I name my albums the way I do. It’s no coincidence that I use my mother tongue when it comes to album titles. By calling an album Waldgeschichten instead of Stories from the Forest, I define and locate myself and my roots with greater precision. I’m Stefan Betke, a musician from Germany. That’s what and who I am. Bizarrely, some people actually tried to interpret nationalistic tendencies into my music because of that, which is nonsense. I mean, would you suspect an Italian writer to be nationalistic just because he or she writes in Italian?
WV: I’ve been confronted over and over again with accusations like that throughout my whole career. I just tune it out.
SB: It still makes me angry. People don’t seem to understand that trying to define your identity is partially linked to the language you speak; the language you dream and think in. An incredibly important aspect of making music is about defining an artistic space.
WV: When I released my GAS trilogy some fifteen years ago, I wasn’t making a political statement. There were two reasons for the name GAS: First, the beginning- and endlessness; the amorphous structure of the music seems to emanate like gas. And second, the association of a dense fog in a dark forest. Of course, I was also experimenting with the romantic cliches and myths of the German forest. Although, in my opinion, the music stands for itself. To me this still seems to be a natural and consistent approach towards music, wherever you’re from. Making music about forests and childhood memories had a lot to do with connecting myself to a world of my own associations and ur-aesthetic experiences—some of the most formative ones.
SB: Physical places can be extremely inspiring. I’m sure you know that dub music has also been an incredibly important influence for me. It might sound strange, but I often view the vastness and architecture of the forest as a grid with smaller units defined by particular trees—which is also how I envision the spatiality of dub.
WV: And what do you get from meditating on the forest as a grid, of being in the middle of it?
SB: It’s hard to describe, but when I look into the sky it sometimes explodes . . . All I know is that the forest for me is a space of vital importance—not to mention for the survival of our planet.
WV: I’ve meditated quite a bit on the forest in the past, but at the moment, I feel a similar attraction towards the Internet. In a sense, it’s like a huge forest too. The Internet also offers its own forms of ecstatic experience and infinity . . . not to mention the pure density of information. I’m currently working on an unofficial follow-up to GAS titled Rückverzauberung [“Re-enchantment”]. Here, my approach to making ambient music has become increasingly abstract—more amorphous and unbridled, rhythmically speaking. I’m trying to infiltrate various kinds of musical and visual material—audio samples, photo scans—imbuing them with a new kind of magic. It’s actually not so different from what I attempted to do with forest themes, but more free and radical than ever before.
SB: I feel like I’m doing something very similar in terms of reinterpreting a given musical space. It’s important to stress the fact that dub “space”—like any musical or artistic genre—should not be understood as confined to specific elements. The same goes for physical space. I mean, Berlin after the fall of the Wall had empty spaces and places that were extremely important for inspiring new perspectives, new visions, new art. Physical space gets recast, or re-enchanted, as you say. Using dub methods to create space—like I do in my music—is inspired by looking at details in an unfinished city as well as watching a green valley. The beautiful thing about having nature as a point of reference is that art is endless like nature is endless. Like Sun Ra said: space is the place. And since we’re again on the topic of nature: What was the idea behind naming your new project with Jörg Burger “Mohn” [“Poppy”]?
WV: First, I agree that dub “space” is unlimited. Also, if you see dub as a science of echo and reverb, then it makes sense to see the mountains as the original dub “space”. In regards to Mohn, let me remind you that I like being seen as a man of the now, and of contradiction and conflict. I love seeing something abstract or digital in nature, and vice versa. I associate “Mohn” with all things slow and narcotic. Of course, I wouldn’t object to the association with opium dens. At the same time, Mohn is about music that’s extremely mathematic and complex. I see a different aesthetic level emerging when I combine the narcotic and the mathematic—one that’s characterized by my new interest in non-nature related fields, especially the digits “1” and “0” that define our digital world. For me using pure Ableton or Photoshop plug-ins can lead to really interesting results without combining them with anything analog. I think it all depends how you use them. It’s not important if I work with analog or digital material. I always oscillate between strictly mathematical structures and wild unquantized improvisation—playing my sampler with my tongue like Jimi Hendrix his guitar.
SB: That’s what the whole digital evolution is about: adding new instruments and creating new artistic possibilities. I think you can “play” the computer like Hendrix played guitar. Of course, how you work artistically is connected to your specific background. Aside from influence of jazz and the avant-garde, I see myself in the Rhineland tradition of Stockhausen and Can, and I’ve learned a lot from West German musical history. But it’s still only a foundation. Certainly, things would have taken a really different direction if I had never seen Conny Plank’s studio or early DAF performances in Dusseldorf. I imagine I probably wouldn’t have become a musician. Of course, I’m not interested in imitating anybody, but whenever I’m intrigued by something, I try to research and learn as much as possible about it. Music especially.
WV: I’m the same. Everybody has their own musical influences and I wouldn’t be the person I am without having been obsessed by other people’s music over the years. But at the same time, I’m convinced that techno would have existed without Kraftwerk, Can or Stockhausen, even though some of techno’s older protagonists—myself included—have built up their vision of music through knowledge of their music. But I’d doubt that my personal development would have been very different growing up in a smaller German city. Admittedly, my uncle was the janitor of the Cologne Music Conservatory during the sixties and seventies, and he would always let me in when jazz or classical concerts were scheduled—Manfred Schoof, György Ligeti, Mauricio Kagel, Bach, Stockhausen . . . But I wouldn’t call these experiences truly “formative”. Life is what you make out of it, for the most part. It’s the active part, not the passive that defines you.
SB: I would say that, excluding dub, I’ve been influenced by three main schools of electronic music: Rhineland, Berlin and Detroit. All three were important because they stood for larger ideas. So, when I started making music I always had a bigger picture in mind, even though I try to keep my references relatively inconspicuous. It was more an attitude that I inherited from my freethinking predecessors. More than anything else, they taught me to believe in myself.
WV: I respect my teachers, but I’ve become a grown-up in the meantime. And that kind of artistic maturity means that I’m responsible for what I’m doing—and no one else. At the same time I feel committed to the vanguard, to the future. It’s interesting to note that today, since record sales have dramatically declined, it doesn’t even make sense anymore trying to go with trends. Try it out—it doesn’t work. For a couple of years now, I’ve been attempting to free myself more and more from the business side of things simply because artistic truthfulness is so much more important than sales expectations. And to be perfectly honest, it’s been liberating. Envisioning the future is one of the most beautiful things you can do as a musician. I mean, I’m fully aware that I probably can’t invent entirely new sounds or approaches like Stockhausen, because somehow all sounds have been invented already. But I’m sure I can still invent new music by finding new combinations of sounds, or reinventing and re-enchanting them.
SB: I think the biggest temptation always lies in the music that you’ve already made. There’s something strangely seductive about repeating yourself in order to stay true to your own legacy. But you have to keep that in check—to refine what you’ve done in the past without copying it by adding new motifs and getting rid of other pieces. I describe it as a basic vocabulary that I have from my musical socialization and the paths I’ve taken in life. My goal is to add to that vocabulary and find new ways of synchronizing it with enhanced style and method. But the goal always remains the same: to create something new, despite the limitations of what’s already been done. You can’t see that as a burden—you should see it as a chance.
Photo: Andreas Stappert. Wolfgang Voigt in Kompakt HQ Cologne.